When the digital workplace team at the VELUX Group were told “you’ll need top manager support” for their launch, they didn’t take it lightly: they engaged their 100 most senior leaders one by one, with briefings, Skype calls and access to the new intranet two weeks ahead of anyone else. 

They also unleashed the ‘Awesomesaurus’ — more on that later. 

The result has been not just widespread adoption, but something that is really intrinsic to their business values. They also went to great lengths to engage with their colleagues in an original way, as this launch video reflects:

I spoke with Majbritt Rohde Murmann and Christine Holm Donatzky from the team about their experience.

Making a Fresh Start

The VELUX Group is a global, family owned business most famous for its skylights. In 2014, its old intranet reached the end of its life. This triggered the company to rethink the approach, not just for replacing the intranet, but to reconsider how a digital workplace could support its organizational vision to become more global.

That overall goal was to change the way they communicate and collaborate in the VELUX Group: “The ‘business case’ was a strong vision based on tons of user input, and an equally strong concept for how to achieve it.” They explained, “The vision ties perfectly in to the overall strategy for the VELUX Group, where focus is on building one company that works more efficiently.” The team's "killer slide" below neatly sums up the case:

Why choose a digital workplace

Operations at VELUX had traditionally been run locally, so becoming global meant finding a way of keeping that local element but doing everything in a more consistent way and on a single platform. In the end Office 365 seemed like a good fit with its ability to target content in SharePoint.

A great deal of thought went into making the intranet experience more personal. “We target by location, scope of responsibility and where you are in the organization,” explained Murmann. “We can also target by legal entity for things like employment details.”

Launch: Unleash the Awesomesaurus

As you can see above, VELUX commissioned a special video to support the launch. Murmann and Donatzky explained, “It is very atypical for a VELUX video so it got a lot of attention. There were rumours of the cartoon before we let people show it. On the first screening, people were not sure if they should laugh or not.” 

The team continued to use the video characters in all their communication. A welcome video on the intranet homepage from the SVP of Communications has a big, red cardboard Awesomesaurus in the background.

By the time the digital workplace launched, the “One VELUX” decision was very well known, so the launch was about making a statement saying, “Now we’re going to collaborate more.” Each business and campus unit were asked to appoint a community manager for their part of the organization, to insure local presence and activation from the start.

“We are very honest about it being a big change. Some compare it to when you had to get used to email and not printed letters. So we repeat a lot and share our experiences” added Donatzky and Murmann.

More Than Just an Intranet

The VELUX Group has been on something of a social business journey. “We spent a lot of time not using Yammer the right way and not seeing the value of it. We were using it like Twitter to work out loud. It felt like noise for other people and it became another thing to go and check. But now we see the value because we use it as a better way of collaborating than writing emails. The change came when we said 'put questions on Yammer' and it became a problem-solving place.”

Another thing that may have helped Yammer adoption was that it grounded groups in existing projects. For example, it was used to help existing global teams collaborate, or for individual locations to communicate locally, rather than hoping that communities would originate from within the Yammer tool. “By knowing your community and the ones you are communicating with, it makes the media seem more relevant and you become confident in using it.”

Helping people navigate Office 365 was important too. “We used a simple ‘what to use when’ matrix a lot. In our experience this question is the one we get asked the most, and people find it very useful understanding the difference between Yammer, the intranet and SharePoint sites.”

what program to use when

Governing the Digital Workplace

Top management support for the new intranet has clearly been strong, and IT, Corporate Communications and End User Productivity jointly govern the digital workplace to represent employee needs.

This is complemented by the attention given to community managers. Job descriptions include their intranet and Yammer responsibilities and the team ran a series of two-day workshops to acclimate them. Part of this training was to get them thinking about writing for online and who their audience might be. Donatzky explained, “We wanted people to understand that your audience is not like you, so we asked Community Managers to draw a spider web to represent the types of content each person would be interested in, which channels they would use and at what time of the day, for example at home or during lunch breaks”

What Next?

Both agreed that maintaining momentum was the next challenge facing the digital workplace team. They have plans to grow people’s understanding of the Office 365 suite, such as using OneNote and OneDrive. Like many companies though, the VELUX Group is yet to be convinced about the value of Delve in practice. And that reflects what makes this case such a good example of a digital workplace done right: not lead by the technology, but by a clear purpose and strong execution.

I’m grateful to Majbritt Rohde Murmann and Christine Holm Donatzky for their help in putting this case study together.

Title image all rights reserved Velux Group